AVON — The cup that toasts a star-spangled salute to America runneth over this year, but the spillover was mainly contained to the parking lot across the street.
The town of Avon attempted to do something a little different with their annual Salute to the USA party Thursday and skipped the live band for street performers and an expanded “Kids Zone” play area in the town’s Recreation Center parking lot across from Nottingham Park, resulting in what many called the best Independence Day party yet.
“I look forward to this event every year, but this year has been the best, for sure,” said Edwards resident Edith Gonzalez, of Edwards, who has been living in the valley for 14 years.
Gonzalez, 17, was volunteering the event along with more than 100 members of her church, Calvary Chapel in Edwards.
“We were excited to have more space, so families could move.” said Gonzalez’s pastor, Tommy Schneider. “It was a bigger effort on our part this year, we have 75 volunteers per hour working this event.”
But the effort to organize FirstBank Salute to the USA, which brings in an estimated 25,000 people and launches nearly 2,000 fireworks, took more than just a volunteer effort, said Avon town manager Virginia Egger.
“The whole staff is working this year,” she said. “It’s all hands on deck.”
Hugo Castillo, with Avon Parks and Rec, said he and his colleagues had been working around the clock to prepare for the event.
“We’ve been working non-stop since Tuesday putting everything together,” he said.
Nine inflatable castles, a face painting area, an arts and crafts tent, a dunk tank, jugglers on stilts, flame throwers, magicians, human bronze statues and puppeteers were among the roving entertainers and attractions in Avon Thursday evening.
Egger said the idea to forgo the live band for the street performers and the expanded kids zone area was a test effort, but judging by how well it went, she said it’s likely to set the format for future events.
“Especially if we’re able to see through our goal and turn this area into a multi-use activity center,” she said of the Recreation Center parking lot.
“The event is a party for our valley, to say thank you, we love being in this place,” said Egger.
For some, the event was a also a chance to connect with residents and neighbors.
Avon postmaster Mike Kervin and councilman Jake Wolf collaborated on a “Go Postal Dunk Tank,” where residents were able to take out their frustrations with the Avon Post Office by drenching Kervin in a cold-water pool.
Wolf and Kervin used the opportunity to educate residents on proper package labeling, which is a major part of the reason roughly 700,000 packages are sent back from the Avon office every year, Wolf said.
“This is all about raising awareness,” said a sopping wet Kervin. “If you’re a local, come talk to me, work with me and I’ll teach you how to make sure your package gets to you, because it is frustrating.”
Kervin was probably dunked more than 35 times between 6 and 7 p.m., said Edith Gonzalez, who was working the dunk tank area as a part of her volunteer effort.
Relieving Kervin were local kids Jaden Webster, 11, and his brother Zion, 13, along with their friend Grant Fischer, also 13. With room to do some warm-up sprints after being dunked, the expanded kids zone was second only to the fireworks in terms of crowd-favorite attractions on Thursday.
“The design, the way they set it up, it makes it feel bigger, said David Weiss, who manages The Westin, the Sheraton and Lakeside Terrace. “I’ve been to several of these and this is definitely the best one I’ve ever seen ... of course, we’ve had perfect weather, as well, so that helps.”